First Edition Books: The Seventh Sense

Kenneth Roberts’ first book on water dowsing was Henry Gross and His Dowsing Rod; he quickly followed with a sequel titled The Seventh Sense (1953). According to Jack Bales, Henry Gross was given charitable reviews primarily because of Roberts’ reputation as a novelist; however, reviews for The Seventh Sense were not as favorable (Bales, 1993, 100). Noted in The Seventh Sense is Roberts’ hostile tone toward those who disagree with him regarding water dowsing. Roberts takes a rather ad hominem approach to discrediting his critics’ views which dimmed his reputation in the eyes of his colleagues.

Below are pictures of the first-edition of The Seventh Sense. Though not one of Roberts’ most popular works, it is a nice collection piece for those who seek to collect all of Roberts’ books.

Front of Dust Jacket - The Seventh Sense

Title Page - The Seventh Sense

Copyright Info - The Seventh Sense

"Hollis, N.H. / The water supply of this school flows from veins dowsed on a map in Kennebunkport by Henry Gross & Kenneth Roberts November 7, 1951 proved in Hollis November 8, 1951 / Henry Hills / Denton Lates / Irving Simonds / Beryl Orde / Arthur Davis"

“Hollis, N.H. / The water supply of this school flows from veins dowsed on a map in Kennebunkport by Henry Gross & Kenneth Roberts November 7, 1951 proved in Hollis November 8, 1951 / Henry Hills / Denton Lates / Irving Simonds / Beryl Orde / Arthur Davis”

First Edition Books: Battle of Cowpens

The first book that I want to highlight in the series titled “Kenneth Roberts First Edition Books” is Battle of Cowpens: The Story of 900 Men Who Shook an Empire. This is the only book that was not published by Kenneth Roberts as it was published posthumously after Roberts’ death on July 21, 1957.

Boon Island and Battle of Cowpens were Roberts’ last two novels, but his first two novels following his venture with water dowsing. After publishing Lydia Bailey, Roberts shifted his focus to promoting the validity and value of water dowsing and wrote Henry Gross and His Dowsing Rod (1951), The Seventh Sense (1953), and Water Unlimited (1957).

According to Jack Bales in Kenneth Roberts, Collier’s magazine approached Roberts’ representatives at Doubleday to see if he would be interested in writing a 4,000- to 5,000- word article on the Battle of Cowpens (Bales, 115). Roberts agreed and published his article in 1956. His work for the Collier’s article motivated Roberts to write a novel on General Daniel Morgan (who commanded the 900-man American army against the British at the Battle of Cowpens). Unfortunately, Roberts died while his work was in its research stage. Bales quotes Roberts’ secretary as stating that “‘Any plans for such a book were in Mr. Roberts’ head at the time of his death'” (Bales, 115).

Before Roberts’ died, however, an old friend, Herbert Faulkner West, approached Roberts about publishing his Collier’s article in a limited edition book form (Bales, 116). Roberts would not live, however, to see this book.

West wrote the forward for Battle of Cowpens, and in the spirit of Kenneth Roberts, Marjorie Mosser Ellis (Roberts’ niece and secretary) complained to Doubleday for allowing West’s “negative” forward to be included with the book (he had negative comments about Northwest Passage, Boon Island, and his three water dowsing books [Bales, 116]). Further, Moser corrects West in that Roberts did not rewrite Battle of Cowpens for West; rather, Collier’s “hacked” Roberts’ article to pieces and the book form represents Roberts’ work in its true form (Bales, 116).

Lastly, Bales notes that while Battle of Cowpens exhibits Roberts’ attention to detail and illustrates his in-depth historical research, it does not flow smoothly. One reviewer also points out various errors in Roberts’ work – errors that Bales assumes (correctly, in my opinion) that Roberts “would have corrected these if he had lived to complete his project” (Bales, 116). No doubt had Roberts lived, Battle of Cowpens would have fit Roberts’ mold of a historical fiction novel (Bales, 116, quoting from Howard H. Peckham, review, William and Mary Quarterly 3:15 [1958]: 530).

Earlier in my collecting days, I was unsure about the status of Battle of Cowpens; that is, I didn’t know if it was published alone or if it was published in a set. About 10 years ago or so, I found a four-volume set of Kenneth Roberts books, and the title of the set was Kenneth Roberts Reader of the American Revolution published in 1976. The set included Arundel, Rabble in Arms, Oliver Wiswell, and Battle of Cowpens.

Kenneth Roberts Reader of the American RevolutionSince then, I thought that Battle of Cowpens was available only this four-volume set. Later I became aware of the fact that Battle of Cowpens was published by itself shortly after Roberts’ passing. Below are some pictures of the dust jacket, the maps on the end papers, and the copyright page. Note that the copy I bought is the first trade edition; Roberts had a limited number of copies published and each one was signed – I hope to get one of these copies eventually.

Battle of Cowpens Dust Jacket

Endpaper maps

End paper maps

Notice that the copyright is to Kenneth Roberts' estate. To my knowledge, the bank that managed his estate is no longer in existence. I am currently trying to track down who holds the rights to Kenneth Roberts' estate.

Notice that the copyright is to Kenneth Roberts’ estate. To my knowledge, the bank that managed his estate is no longer in existence. I am currently trying to track down who holds the rights to Kenneth Roberts’ estate.

Kenneth Roberts in the Blogosphere: Historical Novels on “Arundel”

This morning while trolling Google for anything Kenneth Roberts related, I came across a great blog titled “Historical Novels.” According to the welcome message on the home page, the site “may interest those who enjoy historical fiction AND take the history seriously. I confess that I’m the sort who is outraged when a new historical novel or film takes liberties with known historical facts – for no good reason (sometimes there are good reasons). To that end, novels are rated on five criteria – posed as questions.”

I’ve actually been thinking lately of reading more historical fiction novels, but I’ll be honest, I’m rather hesitant to do so because I am unfamiliar with any other historical fiction writer. Hopefully, this blog can rescue me from the doldrums of ignorance.

Back in 2011, “Historical Novels” provided a favorable post for Kenneth Roberts’ Arundel, which you can read here. A link is also provided for what looks to be a very promising website: historicalnovels.info – a website that lists over 5000 historical novels.

Kenneth Roberts First-Edition Books

For many book collectors, first-edition books are sought after with the passion and energy of a pirate searching for buried treasure. Almost any first-edition will do (particularly for those books that are extremely rare), but if the book’s binding is still tight, the hinges intact, and the original dust jacket (and slipcase if applicable) is present, then the find is just that much better. For the novice book collectors (like me), though, being able to know what particular first-editions look like (especially the true first-editions) can be difficult.

I’ve sought after Kenneth Roberts’ first-edition books for the longest time, but have only recently been able to actually purchase some of them. As I posted back in July, I was able to find a first-edition of March to Quebec as well as the limited, 2 volume edition of Oliver Wiswell (without slipcase). For my anniversary, I was able to find (and purchase!) three more first-edition Kenneth Roberts books that I’ve been unable to find up to this point. Now that my Kenneth Roberts collection has improved with the recent first-edition purchases, I figured that a new series on this website is in order. Hence, the first post on Kenneth Roberts First-Edition Books.

This series will be devoted to providing pictures of what particular first-editions look like (particularly the dust jacket) and what the copyright page looks like as well (not all “first-editions” are true first-editions). Jack Bales has provided two helpful articles written in the 1990s that are devoted to Roberts’ first-edition books; I will be referencing these articles to help supplement anything that I am able to find.

Lastly, I have also purchased Mark York‘s Patriot on the Kennebec: Major Reuben Colburn, Benedict Arnold and the March to Quebec, 1775. Mark is a frequent visitor and commenter on this site, and I look forward to reading this work.  I’ll be providing a review of this book in an upcoming post as well.

Kenneth Roberts in Current News: Rick Salutin’s “Simcoe Day”

Today’s installment of “Kenneth Roberts in Current News” comes to you from http://www.rabble.ca in an article by Rick Salutin titled “Simcoe Day: How Should We Celebrate a Myopic Vision of Canada,” published on 8/4/2014. The subject of the article is John Graves Simcoe who, according to wikipedia.org, was a British army officer and, from 1791-1796, the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. Simcoe was also instrumental in helping establish what is now Toronto and in “introducing institutions such as the courts, trial by jury, English common law, freehold land tenure, and the abolition of slavery” (wikipedia.org/wiki/john_graves_simcoe).

Salutin’s article provides a brief summary of Simcoe’s contributions to Canada, as well as his tribulations. In addition to the accomplishments listed above, Simcoe was “accused of atrocities, always hard to sort out in wartime, like massacring prisoners and trying to assassinate Washington” (Salutin, para. 4). After being captured in the British defeat at Yorktown, he was shipped back to England where he married an heiress and began his political career. He would eventually seek to make Canada a recreation of “genteel English society,” which would serve as a “beacon for the U.S., who’d forsake their own revolution and rejoin the Empire” (Salutin, para. 4).

Earlier this year, AMC aired Turn: Washington’s Spies, which tells of”‘America’s first spy network'” during the Revolutionary War. In the show, Simcoe is depicted as a “magnificent British villain…he sneers, he taunts, he tortures, he kills” (Salutin, para. 2). Salutin confesses that, despite being an “Ontario history buff,” he was not aware that Simcoe was a player in the American Revolutionary War (Salutin, para. 2). Yet, he was aware of the United Empire Loyalists – those Americans who settled in British colonies (in particular Canada) during or after the Revolutionary War (wikipedia.org/wiki/united_empire_loyalists).

Salutin recounts that he first heard of the United Empire Loyalists and their creating “Anglo Canada after the revolution” from Kenneth Roberts’ Oliver Wiswell which he read when in high school. He also notes that he read Rabble in Arms as well. An interesting connection between Simcoe and Kenneth Roberts that Salutin brings out is that Simcoe “took over a renowned/infamous unit called Roger’s Rangers (Roberts also wrote a novel on them) and renamed them the Queen’s Rangers. Their colours sit in Fort York today” (Salutin, para. 3).

Salutin’s description of Roberts does little justice to Roberts’ contribution to American history and historical fiction writing. Salutin says of Roberts: “Roberts was a cranky conservative in the heyday of American liberalism” (Salutin, para. 2). While Roberts’ cantankerousness and his strong conservative views are well-documented, Salutin’s description really accomplishes nothing in his brief discussion of Roberts works; I fail to see what connection he tries to make here.[1] Nevertheless, I believe that Salutin highlights a point about Kenneth Roberts’ works – despite their having been written over a half-century ago, they are still of historical value even today. While Roberts’ conservative views may be outdated, the historical contribution he made to American history stands the test of time.

Though Salutin laments how Canadians sometimes have to learn from Americans about Canadian history, I appreciate his article, for its Canadian author has taught this American something he did not know about American history.

 

[1] Rick Salutin’s bio on rabble.ca states that “he is a strong advocate of left wing causes” (http://rabble.ca/category/bios/contributor/columnist/rick-salutin). It’s common when one writes on someone of opposing views to make some remark that distances himself from his subject. Perhaps Salutin’s comment is such an attempt. Still, his remark does not serve the point he seeks to make, particularly in the paragraph in which his remark occurs. It is true that one cannot separate the subject’s personal beliefs and views from their works, there are instances such as this where can focus on the subject’s work apart from their overarching worldview. If the article touched on issues of race and immigration (issues on which I strongly disagree with Roberts), for instance, then it would be fair for Salutin to make the remark he does in “Simcoe Day.”

Kenneth Roberts’ Genealogy

Characters bearing the surname of Towne or Nason serve as either the main protagonist or play a central role in most of Kenneth Roberts’ novels.  For instance, Langdon Towne was the central character in Oliver Wiswell and Steven Nason was the central character in Arundel. Roberts use of these surnames exhibit not only his attention to historical detail, but his desire to link his works to his New England ancestors.

Some time ago, a Kenneth Roberts fan mailed me some information he received when he attended a presentation by Jack Bales at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine. Among the material sent was a short genealogy of Roberts’ family.

Kenneth Lewis Roberts (1885-1957)

Parents: Frank Lewis Roberts (b. 1840) and Grace Mary Tibbetts (1840)

Grandparents: Jane Amanda Nason (b. 1800) and Ebenezer Armstrong Tibbitts (b. 1800)

Great Grandparents: Daniel Nason (b. 1785) and Lydia Towne (b. 1785)

Great-Great Grandparents: Edward Nason (1756-1847) and Sarah Merrill (b. 1758)

Great-Great-Great Grandparents: Joshua Nason (b. 1725) and Sarah Butler (b. 1728)

Interestingly, Roberts follows his family history from his mother’s side; none of the characters in Roberts’ books are based on ancestors from his father’s side. Various reasons are plausible for such an exclusion. Jack Bales in Kenneth Roberts states that little is known of Roberts’ father (and even of Roberts’ immediate family [Bales, 1]) and that he “was not at all close to his father and never mentioned him in any of his articles or books” (Bales, 2). It’s unknown why Roberts was distant from his father, but one can speculate that his father’s job as a traveling salesman played a significant role (Bales, 2).

Roberts’ relationship with his mother, on the other hand, was one that Roberts spoke of in his I Wanted to Write and in various essays (Bales, 2). The time spent with his mother’s family eventually served as the backdrop for his writings on Maine and his novels.

Though Roberts’ characters surnamed Towne or Nason are fictional, they are based upon real people in Roberts’ past and illustrate his deep appreciation for his family’s history and for his beloved state of Maine.

Oliver Wiswell 2 vol Limited Edition, Signed

It’s always a good find when you locate an item containing the signature of your favorite author. It’s even better when that find is at an affordable price!  When I set my goal to own every Kenneth Roberts book, I realized that I would not be able to own the more rare copies (lest I spend too much money and my kids go without food). Nevertheless, I’ve searched every book store, antique store, flea market, etc. for copies of Roberts’ books. Further, I’ve taken advantage of the 21st century and searched Ebay, Amazon, Abebooks, and Alibris for those more rare copies.

Well, I’ve had an awesome week when it comes to finding affordable Roberts works. First, I found a first-edition copy of Florida (1926) on auction starting at $10. I was the only bidder and was able to purchase this hard-to-find book for a mere $12 (after shipping). Granted, the spine of the book shows spotting and fading, but it’s a great find nonetheless and a great book to add to my (slowly) growing collection.

Second, recall from a previous post that I found another hard-to-find book – a first-edition copy of March to Quebec, a book that I’ve searched for high and low for years (I enjoy books of this kind).

Lastly, however, is the greatest find of my week. One Kenneth Roberts’ work that I was sure would be out of my range was the limited edition 2 volume set of Oliver Wiswell. This set was printed before the first official printing that went on the market. Of 1050 limited edition copies made, 1000 were for sale. Each set is signed by Kenneth Roberts and is numbered. Usually Roberts’ books that are signed and numbered are at least $150 and over, but I found a copy online for only $50!  Indeed I was very excited and bought it immediately.

Oliver Wiswell 2 volOliver Wiswell 2 vol

Roberts' signature on Oliver Wiswell 2 vol Limited Edition copy, 468/1050

Roberts’ signature on Oliver Wiswell 2 vol Limited Edition copy, 468/1050

For the price, the book is in awesome condition (despite the small scratch on vol. 2 and the chipping at the top of the spine of vol. 2). There is little, if any, fading, and the binding is still tight with no cracks in the hinges. One thing that stuck out to me was the quality of the paper. The paper is heavier than that used in the regular first-edition (I know, not the proper terminology) of Oliver Wiswell. Further, the edging is rougher than that of his other books (a feature I particularly like). The front and back boards are thicker than normal and of a different color than the “regular” Oliver Wiswell copies. The only thing I believe that is missing from this set (which I don’t mind at all) is a slip cover.

It’s a great find, and now I’m motivated to persistently search for other hard-to-find copies at great prices!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 99 other followers

%d bloggers like this: